What is the state of the Ghanaian teacher? How supportive and relevant is GNAT to teachers? Marie Bakah speaks

Dr. Mrs. Marie Afua Bakah
Dr. Mrs. Marie Afua Bakah

Dr. Mrs. Marie Afua Bakah, a Lecturer at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) and Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (IEPA) has queried stakeholders on the state of the Ghanaian teacher in the recent times and how supportive and relevant is the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) to their members.

Speaking as the Guest Speaker at the 6th Quadrennial 2021 Delegates Conference held on Wednesday, 26th May, 2021 at the Global Evangelical Church, Sogakope in the South Tongu District of the Volta Region, she predicated her speech with two questions? What is the state of the Ghanaian teacher today? How supportive and relevant is GNAT to their members?

Dr. Mrs. Marie Afua Bakah has advanced her speech on the pragmatic core point of the teacher and encouraged the leadership of the Association to shift focus on innovative strategies to consolidate the gains of the Association’s 90 years on.

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“I have in the last few days prior to my speech sat to think and reflect on the state of the Ghanaian teacher today.  It  is  worth  reechoing  the  critical  role  teachers  play  in  nation developments. That is to say, the role of teachers in human capital development as one of the critical tools needed in combating poverty. Students are the core target of human resource base of any given society and the teacher is enjoined to transform these Students (Human resource base) into a solid foundation for sustainable lives and livelihoods.

According to her, the national development hinges on the contributions of the teacher. The teacher professionally imparts knowledge to students of varied backgrounds and intelligence levels and  in  the  performance  of  this  duty,  the  teacher  painstakingly  guides  each  student  to develop their peculiar potentials and God-given talents. Among such students the teacher’s guide  and  gives  tutelage  to  undergo  various  levels  of  training  to  become  Presidents, Ministers of State, Vice Chancellors, Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers, Farmers, Managers, Pharmacists and Accountants; among others. The development of a country’s human resource is the responsibility of the teacher and there is no doubt that, a nation cannot develop meaningfully without adequate human resource capacity, in terms of quality and quantity. Teaching is a mother profession which incubates, gives birth to and nurtures all other professions into maturity.  As a gold mine of knowledge, teachers are key nation builders. They have direct impact on the lives of students and, therefore, the future of the nation.

”Whilst  I  attempt  to  pontificate  about  the  state  of  the  Ghanaian  teacher,  I  will  urge  all stakeholders present here with a sober reflection begin to discuss if we have done enough to improve the  welfare of teachers  and uphold the dignity of the teaching profession.  Is it one we can be proud of?  Your theme for this all-important celebration is smoothening which becomes steroids to the soul and will of “friends of the Ghanaian teacher” to forge ahead in championing their welfare.” She explained.

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Read below her full speech copied to the front deck of Coverghana.com.gh

A  SPEECH DELIVERED BY DR.  (MRS.)  MARIE AFUA BAAH BAKAH,  ON  THE OCCASION OF THE GNAT’s 90TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION ON THE THEME “GNAT @ 90, SURVIVING AS A RELIABLE AND VIBRANT TEACHER UNION IN THE 21ST CENTURY: SEEKING THE WELFARE OF THE GHANAIAN TEACHER”

Introduction

It is a great pleasure to be part of the 90th anniversary of Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me to speak on the

Topical issue of “GNAT @ 90, surviving as a reliable and vibrant teacher union in the 21st century; seeking the welfare of the Ghanaian teacher”.  Please accept my warm fraternal greetings.

Our Gallant Teachers, I must at the outset, express my profound gratitude for the incredible work you do to support Education in Ghana. Indeed, it is said and rightfully so, that “The teacher is the fulcrum of education, the embodiment of knowledge and the conductor for transmitting acceptable values”.  As a union, you have come a long way. Nine (9) decades of vibrant leadership, holding duty bearers to account and your unflinching desire to change the status quo deserves commendation. Profound gratitude to the union for the steps you take to improve the welfare of teachers and the strides you make therewith in ensuring the progress of the teaching fraternity and the education sector in the country. The union’s desire to keep keeping on, not abated by obstacles nor dissuaded by difficulties to fulfil the visions step upon yourself is what has brought you this far. I say Ayeekooo!!!!

Mr. Chairman, we are all witnesses of the devastating effect of COVID-19 pandemic on global health, economics, social effects and more importantly on education. Indeed, as we hold this event, several countries are experiencing the third wave with its associated human toll and continuous economic and education sector devastation. As a country, our education system is struggling through these challenges. Further to this, the impact of the pandemic has changed the “modus operandi” of teachers in the country and perhaps the entire globe.

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Today teachers are making a lot sacrifices at the expense of their deserved vacations to help the education sector cover the lost instruction times due to the closure of schools as a stop gap measure to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.  Thus, the  topic for discussion today  is  timely,  considering  the  role  of  teachers  as  essential  stakeholders  to  steer  our education and academic calendar back on track.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I will predicate my speech with two questions? What is the state of the Ghana teacher today? How supportive and relevant is GNAT to their members? Then we can shift our focus on innovative strategies to consolidate the gains 90 years on. What is the State of the Ghanaian Teacher Today?

I have in the last few days prior to my speech sat to think and reflect on the state of the Ghanaian teacher today.  It  is  worth  reechoing  the  critical  role  teachers  play  in  nation developments. That is to say, the role of teachers in human capital development as one of the critical tools needed in combating poverty. Students are the core target of human resource base of any given society and the teacher is enjoined to transform these Students (Human resource base) into a solid foundation for sustainable lives and livelihoods.

Therefore, national development hinges on the contributions of the teacher. The teacher professionally imparts knowledge to students of varied backgrounds and intelligence levels and in  the  performance  of  this  duty,  the  teacher  painstakingly  guides  each  student  to develop their peculiar potentials and God-given talents. Among such students the teacher’s guide  and  gives  tutelage  to  undergo  various  levels  of  training  to  become  Presidents, Ministers of State, Vice Chancellors, Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers, Farmers, Managers, Pharmacists and Accountants; among others. The development of a country’s human resource is the responsibility of the teacher and there is no doubt that, a nation cannot develop meaningfully without adequate human resource capacity, in terms of quality and quantity. Teaching is a mother profession which incubates, gives birth to and nurtures all other professions into maturity.  As a gold mine of knowledge, teachers are key nation builders. They have direct impact on the lives of students and, therefore, the future of the nation.

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Whilst I  attempt  to  pontificate  about  the  state  of  the  Ghanaian  teacher,  I  will  urge  all stakeholders present here with a sober reflection begin to discuss if we have done enough to improve the  welfare of teachers  and uphold the dignity of the teaching profession.  Is it one we can be proud of?  Your theme for this all-important celebration is smoothening which becomes steroids to the soul and will of “friends of the Ghanaian teacher” to forge ahead in championing their welfare.

Many Ghanaian teachers are vulnerable and thus cannot leverage on their potential to reach their potential. Some reasons why teachers are vulnerable include;

i. Teachers are posted to work anywhere in the country to go and teach without adequate support.

ii. Placement of teachers without proper induction.

iii. Socio-economic factors such as delayed payment of beginning teachers’ salaries spanning between six and eighteen months.

iv. Posting of some teachers to remote areas causing separation between spouses and enhancing the chances of courting and keeping new partners.

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Ladies and gentlemen, we are inundated every day with stories about the plight of teachers across the country. It is relevant to remind ourselves of our responsibilities as a union to our members and how effective have we discharged it. Without missing words, I dare say that the resultant effect is that the environment and conditions under which teachers operate are deteriorating and worrying, to say the least.

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Teaching which was once a revered profession is now a stepping stone for many young ones to  jump onto other professions and sectors when the slightest opportunity present itself. In effect, the profession is being ripped of experienced ones.  How supportive and relevant is GNAT to their members.

Mr. Chairman, the realization that the teacher is the centre of education is the magic wand to unlock  the  gates  of  prosperity  and  sustainable  socio-economic  and  political development. It is therefore not lost on me to that vision of GNAT is to “unify all teachers in pre-tertiary educational institutions and strive for better conditions of service and job security as well as enhance their professional status.”

As the largest teachers’ union in Ghana, GNAT is considered as the “spokesman” to discuss and influence government in the formulation and implementation of better conditions of service for teachers.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, talking about GNAT @90, I am highly impressed with the success you have chalked as a union. Among some of these achievements include;

ii. Healthcare cover for its members

ii. Unification of the majority of teachers in pre-tertiary educational establishment into one association

iii. Attainment of unified and improved terms, conditions and schemes of service for teachers

iv. Participation in national policies and programmes

v. Instituting in-service training programmes for teachers

vi. Instituting economic service such as Teachers Funds, Welfare Programmes, Credit Unions and Hotels for the benefit of teachers

vii. Provision of end of year packages such as dairies, pen drives, small speaker radio, calendars, bags etc.

Some Concerns of Teachers About the Role of GNAT in Fighting for their Interest

Mr. Chairman, Michel de Montaigne said “We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound or offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him”

Until recently, teachers have known GNAT as the only teacher union with much influence and power. But many believe that there is too much laxity in GNAT in fighting for the right of teachers. Some Teachers have  raised  concerns  on  the  activities  of  GNAT  and  how effectives  they  see  the  union  to  be.  Some of the concerns and criticisms have been mentioned below

Many teachers  think  that  a  closer  look  at  the  operation  of  GNAT  indicates  that  the organization can only serve only one fourth of its members (200,000) because they believe most of the welfare activities promoted by GNAT reach only few people and leave the masses: a clear indication that GNAT cannot serve the interest of its members. It is quite unfortunate that, over 200,000 teacher’s destinies can be controlled by their mother union because of their constitutional regulations.

Some Teachers’ also think their economic rights are being taken away from them in broad daylight to say the least, even when these union(s) exist. For example, payment of welfare in some districts is compulsorily deducted from source, which bank to receive your salary is determined by your district, teachers are denied the option of setting their own exams questions, just to mention a few.

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They believe people cannot easily associate themselves with the teaching profession due to lack of confidence and trust. Meagre salary, no grants such as for accommodation or logistic movement or extracurricular activities, no health insurance, scholarship packages and motivations and a whole lot.

Consequently, your members feel that you are not in touch with them. They raise several concerns  including,  lack  of  proper  consultation  in  decision  making,  Lack  of  Financial Transparency and Accountability to members among other critical issues that requires your attention. A Conversation on Innovative Strategies to Consolidate the Gains 90 Years On.

Mr. chairman,  GNAT  National  Executives  present,  From  the  above  concerns  and criticisms, here are some suggestions to increase efficiency of the activity of GNAT.

I wish  to  commend  you  for  commission  PEN  (Perceptions,  Expectations  and  Needs) survey. As a union, scientific activities such as PEN is a critical in ensuring organization effectiveness. I admonish you to consider the outcome of PEN as a way to overcome the Perceptions, Conceptions and Misconceptions of your members.

GNAT should demand on behalf of teachers without equivocation what is due its members namely, “salaries, fringe benefits and allowances, hours of work, contact hours, leave for union activities, class size and work load, principles of engagement and  termination of service including redundancy, probation, transfers, promotion and housing, sick leave with pay, training and retraining, medical schemes, study and release of employees” which is enshrined in the bargaining agreement signed on behalf of teachers by GNAT with GES.

GNAT should listen more from their members so that they can know their grievances and take decisions based on the needs of the majority. The grievances of the members can be known by taking online surveys, engaging the teachers at the community or district levels to listen to them. This will make them feel involved in decision making and would build their passion for the union.

GNAT should increase public education on the available benefits for the members. Some may not even  be  aware  of  some  of  these  benefits  and  their  purpose.  They should also encourage them to take advantage of these resources to improve their lives.

GNAT should allow teachers have their rights when it becomes necessary and let them know the importance of infringing upon their rights when the need be.

Mr. Chairman, GNAT Executives present, I will conclude by encouraging all stakeholder of GNAT and members of GNAT to be committed to the mission of GNAT and also to take part in all activities of the union. The GNAT members should also take time to talk to their colleagues on the union and its importance. I would also encourage the Executives both at the National level and the Municipal or District level to listen more and talk less, they should respect the opinions of their members and encourage their members at all times.

Please permit me, Mr. Chairman, to recommend that The Executives should build effective communication skills  which  is  pivotal  in  leadership  for  effective  communication  and effective leadership are intertwined. They need to be able to communicate in a variety of ways, from transmitting information to coaching of the members. The quality and effectiveness of communication in the union directly affects the growth of the union.

Mr. Chairman, I would also recommend the GNAT executives should learn to delegate more and serve as supervisors. The  goal  is  not  to  free  themselves  up  but  to  facilitate teamwork, provide autonomy, lead to a better decision making and to engage the members more for them to feel part of the union. In order to delegate, the executives should also build trust in the team. The GNAT representatives in the various schools should also learn to motivate and encourage their colleague teachers on the importance of contributing in any way towards the activities of the union.

Capacity building is a necessary for any organization that seeks to take advantage of the 21st century. By relying on the theme for this anniversary, I charge you all (district, regional and national) executives to introduce policies and programmes that will empower GNAT members. Empowering your members through deliberate programme has the magic wand to producing well balanced, competent, experienced and matured membership to contribute to decision making, promote healthy competition to get the best minds to champion the beliefs and aspirations of the union.

Mr. Chairman, with your permission I would like to say that togetherness is huge and we can get result as a union only when we come together and support ourselves and also pay the other necessary respects. If we do that then we would all feel better. It should not be always a taking but also a giving in both directions. Together we can build a better union.

LONG LIVE GHANA

LONG LIVE G.E.S

LONG LIVE GNAT

SOURCE: Coverghana.com.gh

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